I never cared too much about cars. My parents certainly are not car people. They buy a new car only once the old car has literally begged to be put out of its misery at 200k+ miles. My first car was an old Honda Civic hatchback that my mom drove in the early 80’s. It was cream-colored with upholstery that was shredded and stained from years of driving around toddlers. I covered the seats with furry seat-covers, plastered clever bumper stickers to the back and drove it to high school with pride. I loved it because it was my car. Mine.
I drove that car into the ground, as 16-year-olds are prone to do, and I was lucky enough that my parents provided me with the second of the used family cars to take to college: a gold Chevy station wagon. It had been in several accidents, so it wore a black car bra (remember those?!) to conceal the damage and it broke down occasionally (ok, all the time), but it was big enough to fit all of my friends, plus a keg or two of beer in the back.
From the station wagon, I upgraded to a gently used Geo Prizm, which I was thrilled to have, mostly because it was red. Then a few years later, I moved from Colorado to California to seek my fortune in a white 1993 Oldsmobile that I bought the day that I left town because it had a few key characteristics besides its stunning good looks: it was over 10 years old but only had 20,000 miles and cost just $4,000. This was probably because it was previously owned by a little old lady, who drove it only to the beauty parlor to get her hair “done” once a week, until the day that she mixed up the gas pedal with the brake and rolled through a farmer’s market going 60 mph, where luckily no one was hurt but her licence was wisely taken away and the car sat in her garage until one of her asshole children needed money and sold it. This is all hypothetical by the way, but hopefully you get the picture that the car was not really my dream car. I doubt it was even the hypothetical old lady’s dream car.
But as much as can laugh about my string of “hoopties”, as my friends called all of them, none of these cars ever bothered me much – except when they were broken down. However, after a few years of cringing ever-so-slightly when I had to valet the Oldsmobile next to the Ferraris and Maseratis that populate the LA freeways the same way that Civics and Subarus populate the Denver ones, I finally decided to upgrade my car. I had a steady job then. A job that actually looked like a promising career. I celebrated this by buying the first car that I had ever picked out myself: a used BMW 3 Series sedan. It was 5 years old but looked brand new, and black on black. I had searched for months, done endless research and test-driven tons of cars before I finally settled on this beauty. I was proud to drive it, not because it was a shiny BMW, but because it was mine. It was my choice, based on nothing but desire (and the price being under $20,000).
I proudly drove that car for five years. Even after the birth of my daughter, I refused to give it up. I didn’t care that her stroller took up the entire trunk, so that when I went grocery shopping I had to pack the bags around my daughter in the backseat. I didn’t care that my back was sore from constantly ducking so far down to get her into her car seat, or that my once-clean black leather seats were now covered with a fine Cheerio dust. I didn’t care because, on those rare occasions that I was driving in my car alone, I could still crank up my tunes, roll down the windows and zip between cars with my hair whipping out the window. Ok, who I am kidding? I could sit in LA bumper-to-bumper traffic with the windows rolled up so no crackheads could harass me, and feel pretty damn cool while I did it. I could feel, just for a moment, like I was a young, single girl without a care in the world.
But recently we started thinking about Baby #2, and it became increasingly apparent that my cute little car would have to be replaced. Replaced with what? A Mommy-Mobile, of course. What else?
For someone who doesn’t care much about cars, this was much harder than I thought it would be. After endless research into safety-tests, cost comparisons, online reviews from other Mommy-Mobile drivers, and test drives we settled on the Mazda CX-9. It is actually a really great car. It seats 7. It has a third row that easily folds down to create ample trunk space for strollers and groceries and stray homeless people. It sits up high, so getting my daughter in and out is so much easier now. It links up to my phone through bluetooth, so I can easily play “Wheels On The Bus” through Pandora when my daughter gets cranky. It is shiny and new – actually the first new car that I have ever had. It is everything any mom could dream of. And all of these reasons explain why it drives my husband batshit crazy that I don’t really like it.
I know, I know. Boohoo. Poor me with my shiny, beautiful, new car. Cue the tiny violins. The thing is that it doesn’t really matter what the car it. It’s not really about the car at all, it is what it represents to me. My husband doesn’t get it. He drives the family car on the weekends, and then hops into his sporty convertible to head to work with the top down every day. He gets to pretend for a minute that he could drop everything and cruise across the border into Mexico with his friends at a moment’s notice. He gets to blast his music and drive fast and pretend that he is young and wild and free… even if it is only for 15 minutes on his way to work.
For me there is no pretending. Even if my daughter is not in the car, she is still there. She is in the giant car seat in my rear view mirror, the crushed Cheerios on the floor, the stroller in the back, the toys scattered on the passenger seat, and the Goldfish crackers stashed in my console. Even when I drive by myself, I jam out to Dora the Explorer radio because I usually can’t figure out how to change the station on my fancy bluetooth radio. There is just no mistaking a Mommy-Mobile when you see one, and there is no pretending that you are anything other than a Mommy when you drive one. It doesn’t matter how nice the car is. It doesn’t matter that I picked out the colors and trim. It is not my car. It is a car borrowed from my parents. It is a car we rented on vacation. It is a car that I mixed up at the grocery store and took from some other mommy, who now has my cute little car. It is not mine. I didn’t pick it out. Life did.
Ok, so now my tale of woe is done. For those of you who want to punch me in the boob for complaining about such a thing as a nice new car when there are real problems in the world like war, hunger, and personalized license plates – go ahead, I totally deserve it. The truth is that I actually do kind of like my car. I don’t want to like it, but I do. But as much as I like it, it will never be mine. I guess that’s because it is a grown-up car and I still have a bit of growing up to do.